Congratulations to all the athletes in Oceania for your inspiring performances over the last 17 days.
By Danya Matonti of The Reporters' Academy
Stretching over 500 acres in East London and home to iconic venues including the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Velodrome, Olympic Park is certainly set to be the heart of the action throughout the London Olympics this year.
Not only will Olympic Park be hosting hundreds of sporting events, activities and attractions, it will be holding the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
In the midst of the Park lies the Olympic Village, what the thousands of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, coaches and officials from all around the world can call home for the duration of the Games.
It’s hard to believe that only 4 years ago, the massive area that is now Olympic Park was industrial land, with a disused rail goods yard running through it. Construction on the area started in May 2008, and the transformation that has taken place since then to when construction finished in the beginning of this year has been incredible.
Spanning 36 hectares, there are a variety of residential apartments with room to accommodate around 17,000 people.
Of these thousands of athletes, there are just over 80 from the Pacific Islands representing Oceania, the green ring on the Olympic flag, which covers 25% of the Earth’s surface.
“Everyday I am so grateful to be here and feel so spoiled with everything they give the athletes. The Olympic Village has been incredible so far. The food, facilities and service have been amazing. It's a huge difference compared to back home,” said 800m Olympic athlete, Haley Nemra, from the Marshall Islands.
The state of the art facilities available provide fantastic opportunities, especially for training, that some of the Oceania athletes do not have access to in their home islands. The athlete gym is just one example of these facilities, with over 750 pieces of equipment and over 100 personal trainers on site.
There’s everything you’d need in the Village; shops, medical, leisure and media facilities, wireless networking, internet access, as well as large open spaces with communal squares, courtyards and water features.
It’s quite a change to the athletes from the islands in the Pacific. Even if they may be slightly overwhelmed at the moment, they are embracing the opportunities and making the most of their time here.
Working and learning together as a team is bringing athletes from all around Oceania closer. Some, Nemra included, refer to each other as their ‘Oceania family’.
“I have developed great relationships here. Since we're all small islands it helps so much coming together… some of us aren't exactly on the same level as the other athletes here. But having each other has helped us to build confidence and have a better experience,” she said.
Brett Wright, Strength and Conditioning Coach of athlete Nazario Fiakaifonu (+100kg Men’s Judo) from Vanuatu, explained how the athletes are working together. “With judo, what’s happened is most of the countries only have one athlete, so we’ve come together and we’re training basically as Team Oceania…To be honest, I’ve never seen a sport like it. All the countries train in the one area and everyone’s training side by side.”
He described the village as amazing, “The world is how it is at the moment, and you walk into the Olympic Village and everyone’s just ‘hey, how you going’ and everyone’s chatting to everyone…But now it’s started, guys are walking around… everywhere you look, there’s a world champ, there’s a world record holder, there’s a gold medalist. It’s great, it’s really great.”
Wright is ecstatic at the sheer amount of opportunities available at the Village to not only himself and his athlete, but for sport all across Oceania. “I really can’t even put it into words, it’s unbelievable,” he stated.
“It’s phenomenal, because they’re training with guys from all around the world, guys top of the world that they never get to come across…The opportunity, that’s the biggest thing for these Oceania guys. The opportunity to be with world class trainers, world class athletes, for three weeks, what you can learn in that three weeks is massive for them. And as long as they take it home and pass it on….if they absorb it they can really do a lot with it.”
The possibilities here are simply endless. There is so much that can be learnt from the Olympics, from the Village, and most importantly from the millions of people taking part in this world event in any way they can.
From the world’s most elite athletes, to the Olympic volunteers, the coaches, and the spectators, it is undoubtable that athletes from Oceania will take away as much as possible from this experience and share it with their community eagerly watching and awaiting their return back home.
In just a few short weeks, when we say goodbye to the Olympics for another 4 years, the Olympic Village will remain a lasting legacy, with the new estate being renamed ‘East Village’. There will be 2,818 new homes for East London, with the latest facilities for everyone including new transport links and parklands, set to make a change for the better in the area.